One lesson I have learned since starting my business four years ago, is that the first business idea is not necessarily the business idea that works.
If you run a business, you are familiar with the “find your niche” concept that business gurus teach. When I started, I had a very specific niche: working with service desk managers in law firms. Four years later, I work with mums who want to regain their confidence, or their sense of self and identity.
Often mums come to me when they want to go back to work or start a business. But their head is full of chatter getting in the way of working out what they want. Or they’re changing their mind 20 times a day and just feel overwhelmed or stressed out with all the different ideas. Sometimes they’re not even sure if they want to go back the same career, start a business or work freelance. I help those mums figure out what they want, then make their decisions with confidence and ease.
At first, that might sound like a radical change in business direction … however it’s not as extreme as you might think, as I have been supporting and coaching working mums for the last 14 years. At first this was as an NCT volunteer and practitioner. When I worked at my law firm, the Head of HR would send staff to see me (Head of IT) when they announced they were pregnant. “Go and see Sherry – she knows all about homebirth, antenatal classes, and being a working mum”.
When I studied for my coaching diploma in 2012, the pro bono clients in my portfolio were mums going back to work or building a business. Not surprising given my NCT connections.
When you start a business, the first idea (in my case law firm service desks) might not be THE idea (The Confident Mother). However until you try it, you just don’t know.
How to get business ideas that work
So much has happened in my four years. At the start, I didn’t know I would have the idea to publish a book; interview Dame Sarah Storey; run an online conference (twice); run for NCT President; or write for Birds on the Blog. Often the women that I talk to ask me how I get my ideas. (And by the way, my best ideas are the ones that work. I have lots of ideas that didn’t work …)
Today I will share with you how to get business ideas that work.
Time by yourself to focus
Time by yourself to focus and reflect ON your business and ideas for your business is invaluable. For example, I broke my right shoulder three years ago. I’m right handed which meant I couldn’t work: I couldn’t type, I couldn’t drive, I couldn’t write legibly … so I had lots of time to focus on what I wanted my business to be and who I wanted to work with. That’s when I came up with my Back to Work Confidence programme. (I didn’t take action straight away because I wasn’t ready or able to give myself permission to focus on working with mums. But that’s another story which you can read about here).
Being active is a great way to stimulate your creativity. I come up with great ideas when I’m running, especially when I’m running through the woods. Just being out in fresh air and nature seems to help. The challenge then is to remember the idea until I get home and can write it down.
Before a writing session, such as a blog post, or my newsletter, or a chapter in a book, I put on loud happy music and just dance for 5 minutes. It works – try it and see.
Asking “What else?”
When I’m struggling to come to a decision about how to tackle something and I’ve already got 3 or 4 ideas but none of them feels right, I ask myself “What else can you do?” If you work with a coach, that’s probably a question you’ve heard before. “What else?” can be very powerful. It gives your mind the implied understanding that there is another option, just that you haven’t said it yet.
A business coach introduced me to Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages a few months ago. I am now a fan. Basically you write 3 pages of longhand first thing in the morning. I find it takes me 20-30 minutes which might seem like a chunk of time … however it helps sort out all chatter in my mind.
You write whatever you want; whatever comes to mind; a stream of consciousness if you will. I love them because often in the last paragraph or even last sentence, a fabulous idea pops into my head and onto the page. An idea that I had no clue was even lurking or needed to be found. Find out more about Morning Pages here.
For example, last weekend, I was writing my Morning Pages and had a brilliant idea: take the series of blog posts I wrote last year on the 12 essential steps to go back to work, and turn into an ebook. I set to work straight away. I thought it would be 15 pages or so. I added a bit more content, a couple of my worksheets, and before I knew it, I had 50+ pages.
Talk to my business coach
When I have lots of ideas and want to do them ALL and NOW, then the most valuable hour I spend in the week, is the time with my business coach. My coach knows what questions to ask and will reflect back any doubts or concerns that she can sense in my voice or in the language I use. She reminds me of the ‘shiny new thing’ I was working on last week. She helps me make sense and do a reality check on what needs to go into my Ideas Jar (see below) and decide which ideas is THE business idea to explore further. A good business coach will support you, encourage you and also challenge you.
I get so many ideas … and as an action taker, once I have a business idea, I find it hard to put it to one side. Even though my business head tells me I can’t launch more than one programme or product at a time. This is where my Ideas Jar is helpful.
When I get a business idea that I love and want to put into action straight away, but I also know that logically it’s not the right time, I take a few minutes (the fun part for me) to create a brief project plan, costings, outline of the modules etc. This is the creative part that I absolutely enjoy. I capture the essence of the idea put those notes into an Ideas Jar. Now the business idea is safe; it won’t get lost or forgotten. And when the timing is right, I can come back to the idea and develop it further.
My Ideas Jar is electronic. I use Evernote to record my business ideas. I have an Ideas Jar notebook with a separate note for each idea.
What works for me
I use a variety of ways to get business ideas that work: time to yourself to focus, being active to stimulate creativity, asking “what else” to find the unspoken options, using Morning Pages, talking to my business coach to get the reality check, and finally for all those wonderful ideas that I can’t action straight away but which might distract me otherwise, I store them in my Ideas Jar.
You might be feeling overwhelmed trying to manage too many ideas. Or not enough ideas. Maybe you don’t know which idea to try first. Or you’re finding the right ideas. Think about working with a business coach. If you know that you want that feeling of confidence and clarity on your business ideas, but you also know that you need help, let’s talk to explore how I can help you. Click here to find a date and time that works for you.
There’s absolutely no commitment but as an action-taker myself, I will encourage you to take action, whether that’s to work with me or to take a different first step to get business ideas that work.
What about you? How and when do you get your best ideas? Leave a comment below.